Hamburg is well positioned to win Olympic bid

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What went wrong with Boston2024? Even in this sports-crazed city, the idea of hosting a global sporting competition just didn’t sit right with many people.

Despite attempts to increase support with a glitzy promotional piece starring former Boston Olympians, the video, which was shot against a fall landscape, gave the effort a rather tired look. No surprise then that many Bostonians worried about whether their old city was up to the task of hosting the world.

And yet, across the Atlantic, in another historical city, residents seem overjoyed at the prospect of hosting the Summer 2024 Olympic games. As others have noted, Hamburg, in Northern Germany, is in many ways comparable to Boston.

Yet the inhabitants of the two cities viewed the prospect of hosting the 2024 summer games with quite different levels of enthusiasm. In February, polls indicated that 64% of Hamburg residents supported that city’s bid – approximately double the percentage of residents that supported Boston’s bid at the same time.

A crisp Hamburg2024 promotional website, part of Hamburg’s general website, depicts attractive maps of urban development plans, calls the Olympics “A One Time Chance,” and boasts the slogan “This city can do sports.” Hamburg played host city for the 2006 Soccer World Cup. Germany last hosted the Olympic games in 1972.

Bostonian unease with Olympic ambition may, in part, have been due to the city’s failing transportation system. The US Olympic Committee (USOC) selected Boston’s bid in December, during one of the worst winters in recent years when severe storms caused frequent delays in public transportation.  Public outrage over poor winter transportation combined with a need to spend a projected $82.7 million on a “Winter Resiliency Plan” fueled the perception among many that Boston simply was not ready. Bostonians were left to feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of millions of visitors descending upon their city.

By contrast, Hamburg’s extensive regional transit system and existing infrastructure already boasts efficient subways and bus service to the majority of Hamburg neighborhoods. And while only 54 percent of Hamburg residents commute by car, the Boston Globe recently reported that Boston’s city streets and surrounding highways are congested by the 77 percent of city residents who use cars to commute to and from work each day.

Bostonians were also no doubt put off by the expense of hosting the summer games – Boston2024 estimated that the games would cost $4.5 billion (a figure that many experts regarded as optimistically low.)  By contrast, Hamburg’s Olympic bid boasts a relatively low price tag for hosting the summer games — $2.4 billion.

Hamburg was able to produce a lower budget by recycling a 2012 Summer Olympics bid logo and slogan, proposing to host most of the events on a partly unused island in the city’s harbor the size of 182 soccer fields, and diverting sailing competitions to the already well equipped Baltic Sea port of Kiel, an hour north of the city and home to the internationally renowned annual “Kiel week” of competitive sailing.

Here at home, USOC must now decide whether to award the games to Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Washington. But it is perhaps the city of Hamburg that benefits most from the USOC’s decision to drop Boston.

Olympic bids are due September 15, and the International Olympic Committee will vote to select the winner in 2017 at its 130th session in Lima, Peru.

Contact Angus West at [email protected]